Opening Day is right around the corner! The regular season begins in just under two weeks, starting with the always-exciting Astros hosting the Rangers on Sunday night. Opening day brings out the kid in every baseball fan and it should probably be declared a national holiday some time soon. Baseball is in the air and during the first week of the season, there are a lot of good matchups to soak in. Here are my top five most intriguing series to open up the 2013 big league season:
1. Cleveland Indians @ Toronto Blue Jays
In this series, you can find the two biggest winners of the offseason. The Indians added Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, and Drew Stubbs, as well as some arms like Trevor Bauer and Scott Kazmir. The Blue Jays added half of the Miami Marlins roster, acquiring Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio. Oh yeah, the Jays also added reigning Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey. Dickey is who will grab my attention the most in this series. He will start on Opening Day and I am curious to see how he will fare in his first outing north of the border. The structure of the Tribe's lineup is also a focus point. I would like to see how Terry Francona balances his ball club's power and speed, while trying to minimize the large amount of strikeouts that may occur. Toronto's lineup should be able to put up quite the show against a weak Indians pitching staff and all eyes will be on Jose Bautista's wrist. In other injury related news, Chris Perez's shoulder is now fully healed and he is expected to start the season as Cleveland's closer.
2. Boston Red Sox @ New York Yankees
Rivalry Renewed! Not really, but Yanks vs. Sox will always be a very special series to me. However, these two teams are not putting up the prolific rosters that they have in the past. The main focus here will be on the Yankees. With Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira sidelined, someone will have to step up for the Pinstripes. The fact that Juan Rivera will most likely be in the Bombers Opening Day lineup makes the entire population of Yankees Universe want to collectively stick their heads into a paper shredder. Everybody is waiting to see how Derek Jeter will look in the field, at the plate, and running down the line coming off of his broken ankle. Mariano Rivera will also get a lot of attention, as baseball fans everywhere hope to see him close out a game soon. On the Boston side, it will be interesting to see how Jon Lester fares in his first outing. This game will be personally significant to me, as I will be taking bets on how greasy Jarrod Saltalamacchia's hair will look.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Cincinnati Reds
An interleague play game to begin the season is a weird sight. These new rules will definitely take some time to get used to. Each game in this series should be a very high scoring affair. The Angles have a ridiculous lineup. I cannot wait to see Mike Trout step onto a baseball field again and the 3-4 combination of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will be very fun to watch. The Reds have a pretty potent lineup as well, as Joey Votto is completely healthy and Shin-Soo Choo will be batting leadoff. It should also be an adventure with Choo in center field. Another huge storyline in this series circles around Aroldis Chapman. Will he close or will he start? In my opinion, I believe that he should be pitching the 9th inning. You don't just remove a dominant closer out of the bullpen like that. Come Opening Day, we will see which direction Dusty Baker decides to go.
4. San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Ah finally, a series that is eye catching due to the pitching of both teams. On Opening Day, Clayton Kershaw will square off against Matt Cain. This game is a battle of true aces and will probably only take around two hours. In game two, Zack Greinke will take the bump and face Madison Bumgarner. This should be yet another stellar pitcher's duel. It will be interesting to see how Greinke handles his first start under the real L.A. (shots fired, Anaheim) spotlight. There will be a lot of pressure surrounding the star-studded Dodgers lineup too, as Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Adrian Gonzalez are going to be held to very high standards. I feel like this is going to be a very tense rivalry throughout 2013, as the defending champion Giants are insulted by all of the attention directed at their wealthy division mates.
5. St. Louis Cardinals @ Arizona Diamondbacks
This is a sneaky series. I am really interested in the battle of the first basemen. I expect both Allen Craig and Paul Goldschmidt to carry their respective teams in the upcoming season. I think that this first series will be a good indicator of their leadership capabilities. On the D-Backs side, I want to see how they will produce runs in the absence of Justin Upton. Kirk Gibson wanted a squad of gritty players and he got one. I have never really watched Adam Eaton play, but he sounds like he could potentially be one of the league's most dynamic players. The young arms on St. Louis intrigue me, especially Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal.
Least Intriguing Series: San Diego Padres @ New York Mets
I love baseball, but you couldn't pay me to watch this series closely. Do not expect a lot of offense here. Chase Headley is a point of interest, as many people believe that his breakout 2012 season was a fluke, so I am curious to see how he starts off the year. Scratch that. Headley will miss most, if not all, of April with a thumb injury. This makes this series even harder to view. I do enjoy watching Jonathon Niese pitch, but besides him, this series should be a dud.